Amadou and Mariam
Welcome to Mali


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
December 4th, 2008 | 24 replies | 10,290 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A latecomer to the 2008 party, the blind couple from Mali have surely made one of the most enduring records of this year.

Amadou & Mariam's last album, 2005's Dimanche Ã* Bamako, couldn't possibly have been more worthy. It was like a Guardian reader's ultimate treasure trove - a blind, African husband-and-wife team, produced by the eternally hip Manu Chao, making the kind of 'world music' that simply has to exist in every accountant's record collection. It was good, for sure, but it was also just a little too easily dismissed by anybody who dislikes tokenism.

So the blind couple from Mali have gone away and done the artistically AND financially smart thing - dumped Manu Chao and made a pop album. It's almost as if they went to America, switched on the radio, got bored, and decided to show all those Westerners how it's REALLY done. It's not even an African album with a Western sheen - it's a proper big-budget pop album that just happens to be made by people who grew up with African music. There are shades of Hendrix throughout, and other touches that call to mind sources as diverse as The Supreme, The Animals, and Funkadelic (check the sick vocoder on the title track!), and the stupidly under-rated K'naan even shows up to drop a guest rap on "Africa". Mali's most persistent musical mascot Damon Albarn also contributes production to the album's first three tracks, which include the blissed-out electro of the fantastic single "Sabali". Throw all your ideas about highlife and Afrobeat out of the window; this sounds more like M.I.A. and Asian Dub Foundation than it does Fela Kuti or Toumani Diabete.

The reasons that this is a good thing are legion. For one thing, it's a pop album made by people who have no understanding or respect for the mechanisms of the pop industry in the English-speaking world, which means that all personality, intelligence, invention, and vibrancy is left intact. Like a great portion of African music, it's almost aggressively upbeat. Most importantly though, it means that the fact that these two people happen to be blind is now a secondary concern; the fabulous music contained on Welcome To Mali conquers all other considerations. Everybody - EVERYBODY - needs to get wise to this music, not just broadsheet readers and Obama supporters - it's undoubtedly one of the year's finest offerings. You could obviously analyze this from the perspective of a scholar of African music and decry the dilution of Mali's essential culture into our basic popular forms, but seriously now. A couple of 50 year olds have just made the most vibrant, youthful record you'll hear all year. What's not to love?



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user ratings (22)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
December 4th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Started life as a soundoff, but you can probably tell that anyway.

I really didn't want to do three 4-star reviews in a row This Message Edited On 12.04.08

robin
Emeritus
December 4th 2008



4223 Comments


shame how no one seems to check out the (unknown) albums you review. :/ i might look into this.

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2008



6073 Comments


Great review.

Bleak123
December 4th 2008



1902 Comments


good review, will check this out

Iai
Emeritus
December 4th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You know I can't remember the last time I actually went on Metacritic.

Iai
Emeritus
December 4th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well yeah lol

But before that it must have been before my laptop broke, which is what, 4 months at least?

Transient
December 6th 2008



1461 Comments


Very good review.

Meatplow
December 7th 2008



5524 Comments


The premise fascinates me, I enjoyed listening to this a lot and I can see it growing on me.

Iai, are you familiar with Tinariwen, another excellent group from Mali? Amassakoul is a first rate album.

foreverendeared
December 8th 2008



14678 Comments


this is very, very enjoyable

Iai
Emeritus
December 8th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Not a huge Tinariwen fan to be honest, though I'll admit to only judging that off Amassakoul. I'm surprised you consider it their best; I kind of assumed I'd picked up their worst record.

Meatplow
December 9th 2008



5524 Comments


It's their only record I have heard actually. It's grown on me a lot.

thunderzstruck
December 9th 2008



148 Comments


I just listened to Sebali and wow, I really really like that song

rasputin
December 10th 2008



14504 Comments


Finally got around to this, I'm liking it so far.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
December 22nd 2008



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So good.

Avirov
December 28th 2008



1206 Comments


Godammit I've been needing good pop. I'm right on this. Great review, to boot!

rasputin
January 7th 2009



14504 Comments


Such an enjoyable album, it always livens me up no matter how I'm feeling.

chuchorota
January 30th 2009



10 Comments


i saw these guys at coachella it was one of the best acts there. every one was dancing it was like a carnaval.

plane
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2009



6073 Comments


bump

rasputin
March 4th 2009



14504 Comments


This has such a vibrant charm to it.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2009



15693 Comments


gettin this too late

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins® [AMDISCS]



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